My Obligatory Post on Eschaton, a Topic on Which Much Has Been Said Already

So I had this great post all planned out. It was about Mario’s documentary on the formation of ONAN, the presidency of Johnny Gentle, and the connections to our current political cycle. It was going to be – in a word – bitchen.

Image 44 Mario MovieBut then I reread the “Infinite Winter Guides’ Rules and Regulations Governing the Protocols for Online Posts” (hereafter referred to as the IWGRARGTPFOP), and noticed in subsection 4, paragraph 2, line 17b that – and I quote – “All Guides shall, in the course of their reading and post-writing, write at least one, but no more than three, posts referring directly to the playing of Eschaton, as described in detail on pages 321-342 of the 2006 10th anniversary paperback edition of Infinite Jest. Posts about Eschaton should be reflective in nature, but also quasi-academic, or at the very least, intelligent and thoughtful.”

Ok, I made all that up. There is no IWGRARGTPFOP. There is no rule about posting about Eschaton. And there is no bitchen post that I’m not writing because of this. There is, however, a bit of unspoken peer pressure since (I think) all the other guides wrote about it. And I would probably be writer/scholar-shamed if I didn’t write about Eschaton. To paraphrase Robin Williams’ character in Dead Poets Society, “I would sit on the beach and people would kick copies of Signifying Rappers in my face.”

Image 39 EschatonOh, there is so much that could be said about Eschaton. The pure genius of the game itself. The seriousness with which these kids take the game. The Lord-of-the-Flies-esque quality that emerges when Ingersoll takes aim at Kittenplan, and Otis P. Lord ceremoniously starts spinning the propeller on the read beanie. The “conch” has been destroyed and all H-E-double-hockey-sticks has broken loose on the snow-covered tennis courts. Whether it is sticks and makeshift spears or deadened tennis balls that represent atomic warheads, any object can be turned into a weapon. And the depravity of the human heart will revel in the destruction that its host’s body can inflict on others.

Image 40 EschatonBut what really gets me is just how existential/postmodern/meta- the whole scene is, especially when questions arise in the whole map vs. territory debate. Is the snow part of the map, or part of the territory represented by the map? Is a player of the game part of the game or outside the game (again, back to the map vs. territory debate)? Is an attack on a player an attack on a territory represented on the map, or is it simply an act of violent hostility?

Image 41 EschatonLike the propeller atop Lord’s beanie, my head is now spinning. I’m right there with Hal, trying to make sense of what is unfolding on those tennis courts.

What I do know is that these are twenty of my favorite pages in all of literature. The “elegant complexity” in the writing. The humor. The detail and description. And a little meta-existential crisis thrown in for good measure.


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2 thoughts on “My Obligatory Post on Eschaton, a Topic on Which Much Has Been Said Already”

  1. Re: what are the players in Escaton, in a reducio ad sorta kinda absurdum, what about human chess, when dressed up people take the place of the pieces on a giant chessboard? If they only act according to standard chess rules, it’s one thing. They are clearly (I think, in Escaton terms) part of the map.
    If they have, say, to fight to take over a square, then the map becomes a form of the territory.
    So the game in the book went from map to a new (albeit much smaller in scope, a field instead of a world) territory.
    Which of course was a T within a T.

    I like your Legos™ dioramas, but I don’t suppose you could sometime try to do Mario’s ONAN doc with sock puppets?

  2. Apropos of nothing. Eschaton play begins on p 321. Made me smile. As in “Countdown 3 – 2 – 1 – begin.” Just sayin’.

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